the independent debate

Independent readers say addressing Brexit should be a priority for the next government

We wanted to know if our readers agreed with Sir Ed Davey – should Brexit be reversed? Or, like Mr Farage, did they feel Britain’s exit from the EU was simply bungled?

Tuesday 18 June 2024 07:00 BST
The Lib Dems have been vocal about and rejoining the EU
The Lib Dems have been vocal about and rejoining the EU (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The spectre of Brexit has cast a long shadow over the 2024 general election campaign, despite most politicians staying silent on the issue.

One party that has been vocal on Brexit is the Liberal Democrats, with leader Sir Ed Davey last week pledging to push for Britain to rejoin the European single market and eventually the EU.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage said he returned to the political frontline as “nothing actually works anymore” and that the Tories had failed to implement Brexit properly.

We wanted to know if you agreed with Sir Ed’s comments. Is it about time Brexit was reversed? Or, like Mr Farage, do you feel that Britain’s exit from the EU was simply bungled?

Here’s what you had to say:

‘2/3 majority’

Yes, we should rejoin. On such an important matter there should have been a 2/3 majority. The public were misled. The millions of £ promised on the side of the coach for the NHS, never materialised. Giving equal time to Brexiteers and remainers was about as logical as giving the flat earth society equal air time to astronomers.

On green matters alone trading with nations thousands of miles away was going to cost more in transport and pollution than trading with our customers in Europe. Thank goodness for my Irish passport!


‘Good luck Lib Dems’

I’d love to be back in Europe. I remember when we had almost the cheapest food in Europe, orders came here without delays and extra charges, the EU had oversight over our human rights and stupid deregulation to save money only to increase CEO’s bonuses wasn’t as easy to deploy.

Every aspect of the UK has become poorer since we left the EU. We are culturally and socially less cohesive, less supportive, more xenophobic and more likely to believe the ever-increasing crock of dirt the right-wing press serves us every day from almost every outlet.

Good luck Lib Dems. Now the Labour Party has died in favour of New Labour (Lite Tories) again, my vote is with you. At least we might get a hung parliament!


‘The EU is not there to save the UK from its own folly’

Mr Davey is to be congratulated for at least having the courage to raise the issue and break the conspiracy of silence perpetuated by the two major parties. My personal opinion is that Brexit has been a major setback for the UK and that the consequences of leaving will continue to be felt over the coming years.

The prospect that European food suppliers simply stop attempting to sell to the UK is real enough. The inconvenience to UK travellers of the EES/ETIAS systems have yet to be felt. Regulatory divergence will increasingly produce unanticipated and unintended consequences. The UK will suffer for a decision based essentially on hubris.

However the EU is not there to save the UK from its own folly. No one is sitting around patiently waiting for the English to come to their senses. At some point the English will have to reckon with the damage they have caused and start to imagine how they might possibly persuade Europeans to accept them back into the fold.

Blackkbeard’s host

‘Tight corner’

Based on my sources in Brussels, the UK may always apply for membership, either of the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA). Joining the EEA would mean that British industry must accept EU rules, but then customs checks would no longer be needed. However, it would not solve the problems for people travelling across the UK-EU border. For that, the UK must become a full Member State. Then they must join the Schengen area and they must accept the Euro. I am aware that Denmark opted out when the Euro was introduced. This option is no longer available for the UK. Poland should also have joined the Euro, but the PIS government kicked the can down the road a bit. Tusk is now preparing to join, because the price Poland has to pay for not joining starts adding up seriously.

The alternative is to keep the situation as it is now. This is also a risky situation, with Northern Ireland probably joining the Irish Republic in the coming decade and Scotland and possibly even Wales stepping out of the United Kingdom. For those who didn’t pay attention: Gibraltar is already on its way out.

I think we can conclude that the Brexiteers (Farage, Johnson, and many others) have succeeded in painting themselves into a very tight corner. I hope they will enjoy living in the United Kingdom of England and the Scilly Isles.


‘People didn’t know what they were voting for’

We should definitely work towards rejoining the EU. Most critical to our economic growth and stability is rejoining the single-market, followed by a return to free-movement within the Schengen zone. Our economy, the cost-of-living and the additional costs incurred by businesses have all been adversely affected by leaving the EU.

Immigration from the EU was not a problem, people coming to the UK from the EU were here to work, and every indices showed that these immigrants has a positive effect on our economy. Unfortunately, Johnson and Farage fed the myth that these people were stealing UK jobs - not true. Look how many businesses, especially in farming and hospitality are now struggling to employ people - in many cases these people from the EU were doing jobs that “British” people did not want to do.

We should also recognise that the end of free movement has restricted our ability to work, live or tour Europe. I worked hard for 40-years so that in retirement I could tour and stay in Europe for extended periods - my options are now severely limited by the 90-day in 180 rule. When people voted for Brexit they didn’t know what they were voting for. Furthermore, the fact that the vote was so close at 52/48, should have resulted in a “soft” exit, unfortunately Johnson’s rise to power depended on the right-wing of the Conservative party and thus our fate was sealed. Thank goodness at least one party has come out and said that they would move towards closer ties with the EU - lets hope the debate can gather more momentum.


‘The new government must rethink their attitude’

Brexit was a terrible, costly mistake, brought about by an internal effort to save the Tory party. Instead, it has not only broken the country but the party as well.

It’s now high time that the country - our politicians & mainstream media - have a grown-up, honest debate about undoing the damage & returning us to the EU, as soon as they will have us.

As a Brit living in Spain, I lost the rights, benefits & opportunities associated with being an EU citizen - benefits I had every right to assume were mine for life when I made the decision to leave Britain. Not only that but those rights & freedoms are being denied to millions, most especially the freedom to live, work, study in 27 other countries.

Freedom of movement was painted as an evil, when in fact it is a necessity. The British public understand & value that freedom, even if our representatives are too cowardly to accept that fact. It is also the key to accessing to the single market & EU trade.

The new government must rethink their attitude to Brexit - it is, after all, the will of the people.


‘Either you are IN or OUT’

As a European citizen living in France, my point of view is that the UK is only seeking benefits from what the EU has to offer without committing to the EU (example, no Schengen, no euro etc) therefore it’s best for the EU the UK is a foreign party with NO say in EU affairs. Once you leave it’s forever. Then offering a EU membership à la carte is off the table.

Either you are IN or OUT. The only European countries enjoying a special relationship are Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, which by the way are all in Schengen... So like most Europeans, we are happy you are out. However, I occasionally enjoy visiting you....on vacation but that’s it.



I’m German, so you may claim I’m biased, but I think the British should reconsider and finally reverse Brexit. “Briturn”

Ulf Engel

‘Reversing Brexit is impossible’

As a German, I regretted the UK’s decision for Brexit - until the 2019 EU elections and the following GE.

During the Brexit process, the UK paraded, with careless abandon, the weaknesses of its political system before all the world to see. Proroguing parliament, parliament having to fight for even getting to vote on the biggest change of the UK ‘s relationship with their neighbours etc etc.

The UK is different from (AFAIK) all current EU member states in that it does not have a constitution. Yes, I know, the UK claims to have a constitution. It differs from other constitutions in that there is no safeguard against a simple parliamentary majority changing it. Parliament is not bound by any previous parliament and proud of it. Other countries need super-majorities and some the agreement of a majority of the constituent members to change something as fundamental as EU membership. The UK’s political system doesn’t.

Personally, I consider this the biggest hurdle to any type of “reversing Brexit” (which is impossible). Even the most rejoiner government simply cannot give the EU and its member states a guarantee that a Brexit wouldn’t be likely to happen again. Unless the UK changes its political system and gives itself a real constitution I see no point in the UK even applying to become a member of the EU or EFTA or whatever. I certainly hope the EU and the member states wouldn’t accept a UK application before it does.


‘Can we afford to stay out?’

There is a simple question we should ask ourselves.

For, as some of us, may have noticed, we already HAVE left the EU! And frankly, an EU still blamed, by some Brexiteers for ‘not following suit’ on the Brexit vote? Because the EU did not as, (these wrongly informed people anticipated), follow British rule after we left. Frankly as logic dictates and the realities of the real world, it’s the other way around. It’s the EU that internationally sets the standards.

Being one of the three major power blocks. The other being China and the US. The real question we should ask ourselves is: “Can we afford to stay out of the EU?”

To make a simple equation. Before the Brexit vote, the RABO Bank estimated in its business rapport that 10 per cent of the UK’s economy was directly linked to us being an EU member. (Not counting indirect leverage).

So (and I know this equation will be, as I said, be simple) but would it not be a simple calculation to presume that this also works the other way around. That we will be ALWAYS 10 percent SMALLER, than we could have been, being an EU member?

Let us be grown-ups again!


‘Let’s get back into our biggest market’

We should never have left the EU. Cameron made the first mistake, for something as important as the EU referendum should have required at least a two-thirds majority for approval to leave.

Then Johnson fooled millions with his discredited promises of 350million/week extra to spend on the NHS, unilateral UK rights to fishing the UK waters, controlling immigration, and… so the list goes on and on.

Let’s get back into our biggest market that’s on our doorstep!

Well said Ed Davey!


‘Addressing the elephant in the room’

This is far and away the most important subject to me at this election and this single manifesto pledge assures the Lib Dem’s of my vote this time around. The party probably consider themselves as having less to lose than Labour and Tories by addressing the elephant in the room but nonetheless they have, and the other two main parties continue to keep their head stuck in the sand over what has been the most self-harming policy ever invoked by a government on its own people that I can ever recall.


‘Utter fiasco’

The collapse in prices in the shops and the sudden removal of red tape for businesses and labour (directly related) would make people quickly realise what an utter fiasco Brexit was.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that rejoining the EU is the UK’s unilateral decision to make, so I’m not sure that it can be a working policy manifesto. Usually manifesto pledges are things that you have the power to unilaterally make happen.


‘Pointing in the right direction’

The Lib Dems on this are the only party that aren’t in la-la land. It was a massive mistake to leave, but you can’t just rejoin like that - and as Davey argues it would be a long process of gradual alignment and deals, which is the only way to achieve any of the growth the other parties go on about.

At least it’s pointing in the right direction. But we also need to be aware of what’s going on in Europe: the EU elections don’t exactly inspire hope. All those right-wingers getting in will make the Brexiters wish they’d stayed in, after all.


‘Now isn’t the time’

I voted to remain but believe now isn’t the time to try to rejoin the EU. Many have said they regret voting for Brexit. I think it was a big mistake to leave. There’s been a huge cost in leaving, not only trade and monetary costs but also the sense of tremendous upheaval it has created. And Brexit didn’t achieve what some thought it would: a reduction in immigration. Instead, since Brexit immigration, both legal and illegal, has been higher than ever.

However, high immigration has affected all EU countries, not only the UK. The recent EU Parliament election results reveal the unease many feel about immigration with the far right making significant gains; also in evidence is a fracturing of the EU. Many are unhappy too with the subsidising of Ukraine and cheap imports undermining EU farmers. The EU is not in the strong, unified position it once was. Therefore now is not the time to even think about rejoining.

But anyway, it’s not possible to go back. Ed Davey is pitching the dream of returning to the regreters, playing to that gallery. Better imo now instead would be to strengthen relationships with EU countries. The break’s been made. Best to go forward, not back.


‘Two to tango’

This is not wholly in the hands of any British government or Parliament. It takes two to tango. Any new relationship between Britain and the EU must be signed off by BOTH parties. That is the lesson of the Brexit negotiations that some seem not to have taken on board.

Simply joining the single market, if possible, would be the Norway scenario. EU directives and therefore single market rules are simply handed down to be implemented. To take part in and influence those decisions requires full EU membership. Getting that back will be work of years, and require acceptance by ALL current EU members. I am old enough to remember two vetoed applications in the 1960s.

After the referendum result, those of us who are familiar with EU rules tried to impress on people that Brexit meant becoming a rule-taker, rather than a rule-maker. The EU and its rules will always have an effect on Britain in that it is our biggest market. Walking out was the dumbest decision this country has made in my lifetime.


‘Rejoin as soon as the Tories are out of office’

The UK should never have left the EU single market. We should start the process of rejoining as soon as the Tories are out of office.

People will very quickly feel and see the multiple benefits once we rejoin.


‘Headline-grabbing statement’

Where is the £17-20Bn cost of being part of the EU going to come from Ed? No idea I am sure, just like he alleges he had no idea innocents were being sacrificed to reduce the post office whilst he was post office minister.

If he researched his headline-grabbing statement he would also find that the EU have little enthusiasm to go through years of re-negotiation, not going to happen.

Being smart enough to maximise the UK’s elevation since Brexit to being the second most influential nation on the globe, combined with easing the silly barriers put up that damage both sides of Brexit, is the way forward.


‘Economically unsustainable’

The UK’s current position as the only country in Western Europe outside the single market is damaging and economically unsustainable. Switzerland and Norway (not in the EU) are inside the single market. Northern Ireland is effectively part of the single market for goods.

The only European countries which are not members and not currently trying to join (not EU candidate members) are Belarus, Russia and the UK (excluding Northern Ireland).


‘Make an example of the UK’

The EU won’t let the UK back in for a generation at least, you can’t just leave and join and leave after every change of govt, or when the mood takes you.

The EU will and should make an example of the UK . It’s once again English exceptionalism to think that the EU will simply let you join when you feel like it


‘Not one member nation would vote for this’

To join the SM requires full compliance with the Copenhagen Criteria, which is also the same standard for full membership. As of now, there is not one member nation that would vote for this; and the poll of polls across EU show 54% against and only 26% for such a move.

Things can change, but as the UK has failed to comply in full with the current Trade and Cooperation Agreement ,(a situation much commented upon in EU Group of nations), some serious bridges need building. There is also the minor inconvenience that such a SM membership outside of the EU (EEA), would need tacit agreement from all EEA nations not just EU. Then we must ask how this would benefit the EU/EEA. Not convinced they want to absorb the UK debt and trade deficit into their data sets. Also, there is nowhere near the 60% of the electorate support.

Jonathan Mills

‘Not a serious party’

It’s nonsense.

We haven’t got £10,000,000 to give to Brussels to spend on airports in Poland that no one will ever use.

But if you think we do, what exactly are you going to cut to pay for it?

Lib Dems always avoid the hard questions because they’re not a serious party.


‘The only real deal for the UK’

Joining the EU (Or re-joining) Is the only real deal for the UK...

The USA will not grant a trade deal to the UK. So the UK should turn back time and re-join the EU. For the economy, culture and political stability the EU is the only way forward for the UK...

Otherwise, Northern Ireland will merge with the Republic. Scotland and Wales will wither and then leave the Union. Leaving England alone and deep in poverty and failing international influence.


‘All very tragic’

Brexit was purely about one thing... those with power and influence gaming it on the financial markets. There are no tangible benefits for anyone else. If someone can name one that’s valid, I’ll be happy to listen.

It has contributed to a massive problem in the NHS and care sectors. Free movement means labour can also move freely. Besides would you stay where you are not wanted?

It’s all very tragic really. People need to realise that in the modern world, we are all connected and to be together makes us stronger.


‘Brexit was NEVER EVER going to work’

What people fail to realise is that the Tories have NEVER got Brexit done. The full border around the UK has been delayed five times and then recently partially implemented. The reason this has NEVER happened is because the Tories have always said that it will fuel inflation, lead to shortages in shops and stop many in the EU trading with the UK just as people in the UK stopped trading with the EU when the border went up with the EU.

Therefore the ONLY reason people have lost interest in Brexit and don’t see it as an issue is because the full border has yet to happen and the Tories know that when that happens (just as has happened in NI) there will be a chorus of voices all calling to join the SM and CU because Brexit was NEVER EVER going to work. Thus the Tories are not SHOUTING about how successful Brexit has been because it has been an unmitigated disaster, which of course it was always going to be when we chose to cease trading with our nearest neighbour and then have to go with the begging bowl to get the pathetic roll over trade agreements that have been got.

Eventually it will become obvious to EVERYONE that Brexit was NEVER EVER going to work all any party has to do is implement the full border and then wait for the outcry.



If we were clever we would come up with a trade deal that allows sensible trade with the EU and potentially design a model for other countries to follow.

As trade with Europe is going to happen anyway.

But we are not that clever, unfortunately, despite the promises of Brexit.

So we are a bit stuck now.


Some of the comments have been edited for this article. You can read the full discussion in the comments section of the original article.

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